You could get paid $10k to import a skilled builder
Experts are putting pressure on the federal government to subsidise builders who bring skilled foreign workers into the country in a bid to cut the cost of new homes.
Master Builders Australia is seeking a federal version of a West Australian program that offers builders a $10,000 payment for every skilled foreign worker they attract to help with the cost of the visa, moving and housing.
The push comes after the group estimated the country would need 486,000 more workers, ranging from apprentices to skilled foreign workers, to meet growing demand and replace older tradespeople over the next three years.
According to their report, Future proofing construction: A workforce blueprint, nearly half of the required workforce (229,000 workers) will need to be in technician and trade roles, the vast majority of which will enter the industry through a trade apprenticeship.
Master Builders National Director for Industry Policy, Alexandra Waldren, thinks migration could play a major role in getting Australia's construction targets over the line.
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"Migration directly supports Australian businesses to meet their workforce needs – for the building and construction industry, this need is around half a million workers by 2026," Ms Waldren told a parliamentary inquiry earlier this year.
"Without the workforce, we won't be able to build housing and community infrastructure needed to support population growth.
"The combination of improved policies around skilled migration, training and education, industrial relations and workforce development, collectively will offer opportunities to build a more productive labour force in the building and construction industry."
The Australian Constructors Association, which represents big industry names like Lendlease and Multiplex, says the labour shortage is the "key limiting variable" that has prevented the country from expanding its capacity to complete big projects.
"Over the last five years, the forward pipeline of committed engineering works increased from $50 billion to $90 billion. Yet the amount of work actually done stagnated at around $25 billion per quarter," it told the government in its submission to the migration review.
"In other words, as the volume of commissioned construction work has increased, the industry has been unable to lift its work rate commensurately."
The Infrastructure Association of Queensland said the state's construction market, which makes up 14 per cent of the national pipeline, has a demand-to-supply ratio for labour of 2:1 - meaning two workers for every worker available.
"Our research shows that labour scarcity is the single biggest issue facing construction companies," said an IAQ spokesperson.
Despite the apparent need for workers, the Western Australian government is the only state currently offering builders a subsidy. Their Construction Visa Subsidy is expected to cost $11 million this financial year on the assumption it attracts 1100 people.
However, other states do offer similar subsidies for workers in other industries. The Victorian government has been offering $10,000 for foreign healthcare workers who migrate to Melbourne and $13,000 for those who go to rural and regional areas under a program that aims to attract 1100 workers and is expected to end on December 31.
These two programs have already helped settle 16,652 nurses and 3228 doctors coming to the country.